Digging for a deal on the proposed mine in northern WI - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Digging for a deal on the proposed mine in northern WI

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(WAOW) -- New state legislation could bring a billion dollar mining project to northern Wisconsin. But there may not be enough support in the senate to move the plan forward.

A mining debate is causing quite a stir in Madison. Legislators there are digging for a deal that some said could help boost the economy.

"Wisconsin does have a history as a mining state and the mining industry has made a compelling argument that northern Wisconsin could again be a center," said State Senator Jim Holperin (D) from Conover.

The state assembly passed a bill that would help a Florida company open an iron ore mine in the northern part of the state. Republican governor Scott Walker said he's touring Wisconsin in support of a similar bill in the senate.

"To me, one of two scenarios are unacceptable -- either not passing a bill at all or passing a bill that ultimately doesn't lead to any jobs," said Walker.

Holperin said he's talked with people who live near the proposed mine.

"They said we don't mind having mining in our backyard. We're willing to accept that," said Holperin. "But please provide us with the resources we need to support that, the infrastructure we need to support that and then protect our environment."

Holperin said the assembly version of the bill takes out some environmental protections -- a problem he and the other senators plan to fix. Both versions create timelines for the mine permitting process which don't exist right now.

"Senators are working on their version of the bill and I would say as of today, are not extraordinarily close or in agreement," said Holperin, "but we have a few weeks yet before the end of session."

"We've been working excessively hard on trying to bring republican and democratic senators together to ultimately pass a bill that could create up to 2,300 jobs and still enforce common sense when it comes to clean land, clean air and clean water," said Walker.

If the senators finalize their own version, they would need to work with members of the assembly to create a final bill to send to the governor.

The assembly -- which has more republicans than democrats -- passed the bill along party lines. The state senate is nearly split -- with just one more republican in their group.

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